TULSA, Okla. — It’s been a long journey for two of Tulsa’s newest firefighters. Izzy Robinson and Sergio Lazoya both graduated from the Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) Academy Class 109 last week, and they shared their inspirational stories with FOX23.
Lazoya told FOX23 never dreamed he could be a firefighter when he arrived in Kiefer, Okla. from Chihuahua, Mexico 25 years ago.
“I’m pretty sure we used some other people’s paperwork to get over here,” he recalled. “To get across border patrol.”
He said his father brought him over to the U.S., but his childhood years were rough when they arrived.
“I didn’t have the best childhood growing up,” he said.
Lazoya said it was Marty Shadowens, Tulsa firefighter, who changed his life for the better. It all started when a teacher at his school noticed something was wrong.
“Miss Christmas asked my wife and I if it would be something we’d be willing to help out with,” said Shadowens.
Shadowens said he and his wife stepped in and started spending time with Lazoya. They invited him over to watch football games and made him dinner. Their relationship grew, and Lazoya eventually moved into their home.
“My wife and I talked about it, prayed about it and brought our kids in on the situation as well,” Shadowens recalled.
He recalled that his kids were excited and welcomed Lazoya.
“They looked at it as they were going to get somebody else to play with at the house,” Shadowens said. “[Lazoya] was really fitting into the family. And he came to my wife and I one day, when it was just the three. He said, ‘Would it be okay if I call you mom and dad?’ And of course I was. It meant a lot to us and from that day forward, he was ours.”
Lazoya described the love he received from his second family.
“I had never had that love before. So of course, when you get that you want to call them mom and dad,” he said.
He thrived in his new family, fitting in beautifully with his adoptive parents and siblings, and growing up with the Shadowens inspired him as an adult.
“I mean, obviously, that is what I wanted to be. I wanted to be just like my dad,” Lazoya told FOX23.
His adoptive father was in the audience when Lazoya graduated last week, and he said the experience was unbelievable.
“He could barely look at you and talk to you,” Shadowens recalled. “He had no self esteem as a younger guy. And to look at him now … he’s a good man.”
At the same time, across town, another firefighter’s story was just beginning.
Izzy Robinson recalls growing up at the Comanche Park Apartments near 36th Street N and Peoria Ave. He told FOX23 that TFD Fire Station 24 was only a few hundred yards from his home. He said one of his most formative memories involved the fire station.
One summer, Robinson was riding a new bicycle when a group of kids beat him, ripped his shirt and damaged his bicycle. Robinson said his bike was a birthday gift from his father, and his family struggled financially.
“I wanted the world to burn,” Robinson told FOX23 as he recalled walking home with a bloodied lip and a broken bicycle. “I wanted everyone to burn.”
As he walked home, a firefighter from Fire Station 24 called out to him.
“[He said], ‘Hey kid, do you need some help?’” Robinson recalled. “He’s like, ‘Come on man, I will help you.’ He took me in, fixed my bike, aired it back up, showed me how to fix my popped chain.”
He continued, “I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ [The firefighter] said, ‘What are you going to do?’' I said, ‘Well, I’m hungry so I am about to go steal some food.’ I was joking but serious at the same time.”
Robinson said his mother had seven children all together. He said while his family tried their best, they often were not able to afford food.
“[The firefighter] said, ‘You don’t have to do that. I got something for you,’” Robinson recalled. “He went upstairs, came back with some chips at the time and said, ‘Hey, if you are ever hungry, this door is always open.’”
He said an open door was just what he needed as a child.
“[The firefighters] would pull the basketball goal out, and we’d shoot on it. It changed my whole outlook on that [idea] that people were out to get you,” he said. “From that point on, I started carrying myself a little differently.”
TFD Capt. Mike Ward told FOX23 he remembered watching Robinson grow up around Fire Station 24.
“They would ride their bicycles through the back gate and come up there. And the back doors were always open then. Somebody was always down in the bay to meet them and would see them,” Ward said. “And we’d just visit and make lifelong friendships.”
As an adult, Robinson said TFD’s open door policy was an opportunity he embraced. He told FOX23 he aspired to be like those firefighters who saved him.
“I have been in a worse environment. I have seen what it was like,” he said. “I want to help people. I want to give back,” he said. “I want to do what they did.”
He continued, “That’s our mission, that’s our job.”
Robinson told FOX23 his story came full-circle when he graduated last week. He was assigned to Fire Station 24, the same place he sought refuge as a child years ago.
“When we were out here just like training, the Dream Center came out here. It’s mainly Black kids,” Robinson said. “Captain allowed me and somebody else to go talk to them. And that made me feel really good. And then I realized I’m now part of along line of black firefighters. Cause it didn’t hit me, it really didn’t. I thought, ‘Man, they may think this is a possibility now.’”
TFD Chief Michael Baker told FOX23 both men bring so much to the department.
“It helps us show that our youth can achieve goals when they set their mind to it,” Baker said. “This is not a career that is out of reach for folks.”
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